XMAS HAM + CHICKEN

Here, it is the time of year for salads and seafood. After my short trip north, I came home and craved fish and prawns. In the week afterwards, I ate a lot of sushi and even made a prawn cocktail, crunched up somewhat by the presence of Asian fried shallots. Those shallots, which you can buy in any good supermarket, are absolute winners in my eyes. They keep well, don’t go off, and add a certain something to all kinds of things from stir-fries to hotdogs to tacos. I love them to bits. Given it is summer, seafood and salad dominates the menu, but it is also a chance to roast meat if you have a house that can keep cool. Part of this is the festive season and getting together with friends, where you want something simple and delicious; part of it is determined by tradition. It has been tradition in my family for a little while now that I will bring a ham to Christmas lunch, where we gather at my father’s brother’s house. And, in the evening, for mum’s side of the family, we often have a roast chicken. What follows are some ideas for these two meats, nothing fancy, but something that might be easy to do a week out from the big day.

Ham glazes:
1.     Maple, smoky paprika, whiskey – use the proportions of each that taste good to you. Simmer it a little to thicken it up before you baste your meat and stud with cloves.
2.     Apricot jam, sherry, preserved lemon – a little sweet and sour tang in this one because of the preserved lemon. This one is better if you mix it straight rather than simmer to thickness. If you are so inclined you can place slices of fresh apricot on top afterwards
3.     Orange, miso, ginger – for this you need the zest and the juice of an orange or two. Boil it up with ginger that is a paste (even a little tube from the veggie section at the supermarket) and maybe a tablespoon of brown sugar. I do love this one, for a bit of different flavour.

Chicken Ideas:
1.     Paprika, cumin, coriander powders, salt – all in equal proportions and a dry rub on top.
2.     Yoghurt, turmeric, paste of ginger and garlic, chilli, salt – a wet mix that you rub into the bird and leave for an hour.
3.     Anchovy, lemon zest, green olives, capers, salt – blitz this, stuff it under the skin, drizzle in olive oil. Just beautiful. Also goes well with lamb.


As for stuffing, brown rice, cashews, mint, parsley, dried fruit. Have a good one, stay safe, and see you on the other side.


ON THE ROAD

This is a photo essay of my last week, which I spent on the road. The trip took me from Perth to Port Headland then back again with significant time spent in Roebourne.  Along the way, my brother-in-law and I stopped and ate some local delicacies. This included a Hawaiian Quiche (a first for me) with chunks of pineapple mixed in with the ham, a Maxibon at a roadhouse, then a chicken and kale salad the night we camped. After this, we put away a bain marie breakfast at a roadhouse then bumped into friends who had just been out hunting. We also managed to have some bagels and native berries before finding a true delicacy in 'culinary cream' at the supermarket. It was a gastronomic delight. We cooked at home a lot too, and, were even hosted by JC for dinner as well. All in all it was a good trip, and, I am a little chilly now that I have returned to Perth. Enjoy the pics and more soon!









KIMCHI TOASTIE

To date, this blog has focused on restaurant reviews. There have been a couple of exceptions to that, including posts about Thanksgiving and chicken curry. But for the most part, I have been interested in meals I have eaten outside of home. It has been about the joys of going out, of finding hidden gems, of discovering new things in old neighbourhoods, or simply embracing the suburbs with all that it has to offer, from New York to Margaret River. This is going to change. Now, I am also going to include dishes I like to make at home if only because my readers are spread all over the place. You all though have kitchens that you can cook in, and, it might be easier than coming to Western Australia for a gelato.

I was also prompted to do this after seeing friends’ reactions to an article I shared about what makes breakfast in Kerala so great. A couple of them recalled the putu I used to make when we were students in Canberra. And, I thought of the joy I get from cooking for other people. It also did not hurt that I watched Julie and Julia for the first time the other night, which features a blogger making the full complement of dishes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I will continue to write about restaurants, but I will also pepper this with dishes that I make at home, which might be fun for other people to try as well, no matter where they happen to be.

This brings me to a lunchtime classic that I recently shared with M. (a friend of mine who I met through a trade union). M is a beekeeper and a barbeque master who comes from California. He has spent time in Texas and Japan, which makes his palate and sensibility unique. M. likes to pickle and jam, and, he really knows his way around the kitchen. We were talking, as you do, and he mentioned he had recently made a batch of kimchi at home. And so, I asked him what he does with it? Noodles, rice, meat, by itself, and all the other usual assortment of ways to eat it.


And this was when I confessed that I had been through a kimchi phase where I was eating a lot of it. My favourite way to eat it though is in a toasted cheese sandwich – two slices of sourdough bread, a vintage cheddar, and kimchi in their with it. Butter it up, put it in a sandwich press, and you have a funky, salty, sweet, yummy delicious sandwich. It goes well with beer and can easily be vegan. Nothing is better when you want to mix up the sandwich option. And M. seems to agree, from what I gather, he is hooked on this way of eating kimchi. And I for one, think that this is a great way to mix and match the best of different cultures.

* I also don't mind an apricot jam, walnut, blue cheese toastie; or, a black olive, pickled Japanese ginger, and gruyere number.


MOSMAN PARK SEAFOODS


Tonight I had two serendipitous food wins (and that is even without counting a sublime mulberry granita topped with cream that I snuck in before an afternoon meeting). The first was an impulse buy that involved no food at all, but a little keyring charm made by two enterprising twelve year olds who were hustling counterside at the local pizzeria. You can see the merch below and you can find out more at Craft Freaks. All power to them. It made me reflect on the fact that I had a few of my own hustles before I began my first job, which was at Pizza Hut when I was 13. Before that, I would wash cars in the neighbourhood, sell the occasional lemonade, mow lawn; exactly what you would expect growing up in the suburbs. I had a close friend who always sold eggs, and, street parking on the weekends in football season. He always had the most cash amongst us, and, this was before he got into dealing basketball cards.

The second food win was actually about food, and, for that I have to thank Mosman Park Seafoods. K and I have recently moved into the neighbourhood and are housesitting a place with river views for the summer. We are getting used to the lifestyle of the rich and anonymous, which includes the restaurants on offer. The other day we enjoyed some good lunchtime tacos down the road at Piggy in North Fremantle (photograph included as evidence). They were $5 each, which is about the right price for us. And, truth be told, we do not go out that much. I like to cook and host at home, and, we have great lemon trees, a healthy herb garden, and plenty of greens that go into big salads. For regular readers, you might have the wrong idea if you read this regularly, and could think that I have an unbalanced diet without enough veggies. And, my many vegan friends would be truly, and rightfully, appalled if they saw Food Blog as representative of what I ate as a whole. My home cooking is not like this, which brings me to point out that eating out means eating things you cannot cook at home, which brings me to Mosman Park Seafoods, which is the local fish and chip shop in between the IGA and the BWS.

The d├ęcor is wonderful, the family who own and run it are friendly, and the serves are generous. It is well priced and very quick. On a busy Sunday night, we got our food within ten minutes, and, for under $20 that meant minimum chips, two pieces of fish, two prawns, two squid rings, two scallops, two mussels, two hash browns, and a serve of tartar sauce. They had it billed as a ‘fisherman’s dinner for one’, but I thought it would be better to think of it as a seafood sampler for two. It was that big. The batter was golden and crunchy, not too thick or thin, the fish was fresh, and the prawns were perhaps the best I have had at this kind of establishment. When I reflected on it, with a full belly, I could not help but feel warm inside. I was happier for it, and, I imagined what might come next from Mosman Park Seafoods. Here, I thought of simply ordering fish so I could make my own tacos instead, with slaw and samphire and fingerlime; or, maybe just a cheeky $4 of chips to share with friends when we walk down to the jetty. The possibilities are endless, especially if you feel like contributing to the meal, meeting take away halfway with home cooking. And, perhaps, that is all you can ask of anything, or anyone, that you meet them in the middle so that everyone is better for it. 



SPICE EXPRESS NASI LEMAK


Nasi lemak has to be one of the world’s great dishes. Like a thali or a degustation or a salad bar, it is a single thing that contains multiplicity. How they come together is what matters and as a diner you are looking out for the harmony that happens with synthesis. Will this curry go with that pickle? Will the amuse bouche be referred to in the desert? Will I make the right choice of salad dressing given that I ordered spaghetti carbonara at Sizzler? All of these are major culinary questions, no easily given over to whimsy, caprice, or solved simply without reflection. They all matter for eating. But, with nasi lemak that guesswork is taken out of it, precisely because you know what you are getting – rice (often made with coconut), egg, ikan bilis (a little crunchy fried fish), peanuts (sometimes roasted but often boiled and unsalted), cucumber, a chilli sambal, and a piece of meat (could be grilled chicken, could be lamb, could be chicken curry). What matters about nasi lemak is how all these pieces work together, becoming a kind of team, that is greater than any individual player. Eat any of these items alone and they may be very boring, but when they combine, it is a truly sublime dish. In my lifetime, I have eaten many nasi lemak, from trips to see family in Malaysia and Singapore, to short holidays in Indonesia, to moments when I am missing home flavours in Philadelphia. It is a go to dish for me, but that does not mean I love every single one I have. On odd occasions, I have had a bad one, including at Kuala Lumpur airport (which I claim responsibility for). I have though eaten very good ones, and, overall, it is one dish that I simply love to bits. My favourite nasi lemak at the moment is at a little place behind a suburban car yard in Myaree, south east of Fremantle. You would never know to go there, but Spice Express is in a dynamic little hub of activity next to a speciality kimchi shop and a wonderful ramen place. There is a very big Asian supermarket nearby, and, a sense of community. Spice Express though is where it is at for me, and, not only for their nasi lemak but also for their vadai, which comes with some truly great sambar. It is worth a little trip for, if only to surprise yourself with what is out there.